According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes spend 2.3 times more in medical care than people without diabetes. As the cost of health care rises, the cost of this epidemic also rises. With almost 26 million diabetics in the United States, the health costs are staggering.Nearly 8.3 percent of the U.S. population is affected. And it is predicted that in 25 years, the number of diabetics will double. Diabetes affects all ages and cuts across all ethnic backgrounds, with higher percentages among Hispanics and Blacks. In the United States, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death. The risk of death is twice as high for people with diabetes than those of the same age without diabetes.

Current growing evidenceshows a strong link between periodontal disease and controlling blood sugar levels. Approximately one third of all diabetics suffer from some sort of periodontal disease. Those patients with diabetes have more severe periodontal issues than those without diabetes. And patients with periodontal disease have a higher risk of diabetic complications. It is a chicken and egg conundrum.

So, it was very good news at the 41st Annual Meeting & Exhibition of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR), held in conjunction with the 36th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association for Dental Research. During this conference, a study was presented looking at periodontal treatment and its association with health care costs for diabetics.

The longitudinal study was over a three year period comparing diabetic patients with periodontal disease who received treatment for periodontal disease versus diabetic patients with periodontal disease who did not receive treatment for periodontal disease. There was a significant drop in medical costs for the diabetic patients that underwent periodontal treatment. The savings were almost $2000 per year and a decrease of 33% in the number of hospital admissions.

The implications of such a study are obvious. Individuals could benefit both financially and health-wise by visiting their dentist and treating periodontal disease. Health insurance companies’ bottom line could be positively impacted by covering and encouraging diabetic patients to treat their periodontal disease. Both efforts would greatly reduce health care costs (that are well above $218 billion per year) for diabetics.

According to Marjorie Jeffcoat, lead researcher for the study, professor and dean emeritus of the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Dental Medicine, "There have been emerging links between oral infections and systemic diseases such as diabetes, which is increasingly prevalent in our population. My research team and I had looked at other datasets and we knew that health care costs could be reduced, but we wanted to look at the hospitalizations and see how those could be reduced. This study provided direct insight as to how lower hospitalizations could be achieved through periodontal therapy.”

What is additionally significant is that Jeffcoat’s team will expand this study by analyzing other chronic diseases and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and pregnancy with pre-term birth. Imagine the implications and cost savings if similar results are found with those systemic diseases that are currently being linked to periodontal disease. These include cardiovascular diseases, COPD, osteoporosis, endometriosis, prostatitis, and cancers such as kidney, breast, and colon.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Piero, a practicing dentist for over twenty five years, is the inventor of Dental Air Force® (www.dentalairforce.com). Articles published are on periodontal health related to heart disease, respiratory health, diabetes, strokes, and other systemic diseases. He is the Executive Editor for Journal of Experimental Dental Science and a contributing author to Hospital Infection Control: Clinical Guidelines. He is currently writing a book on periodontal disease, its relationship to system diseases and its impact on the economy.